Aug 17, 2017

First Day of School

We started school on Monday. Our first days are always great. While the kids are not necessarily excited about school, they do like change and new things. They are always interested to see just what exactly I have planned and how it's all going to work out. They are eager to please and eager to get things done so they can go back to their own plans. It would be awesome if this attitude lasted the entire school year, but it doesn't, so I just take advantage of it for as long as it lasts.


This year, my oldest is officially in high school. She has earned some credits already but now she can actually say she is in 9th grade! She'll move to a different group at church, but that is about all the change that will happen for her, socially. At home, it means more freedom and more responsibility. She is looking forward to both.


Nate is finishing up middle school this year. But since we are homeschoolers, it is a bit more complicated than that. He is earning high school credits this year, but everywhere else (except for soccer) he is in the middle school group. He is also being given a little more freedom to accept responsibility in his studies this year. His first week showed great promise! I'm pretty proud of him.


And Daniel... our brand new middle schooler! He is not sure how he feels about middle school. The only real change for him is at church. Everywhere else this is not a monumental year for him. But at home, he has taken on a lot more independence in his learning. I expect this will turn out to be a great year for him!


Abbie is in 5th grade, my last elementary student. She has done well this week with new subjects and new expectations. She is going to be busy this year with a lot of opportunities for social learning.


And now here's a few pictures of our first day...

Morning School (our term for Circle Time/ Morning Basket/ Group Work etc.)


Our biggest and best-beloved tradition is a surprise in their pencil boxes on the first day.





They work hard while I sit around and take pictures...



Although, not everybody works hard. Some of us sleep hard instead.


Math requires a comfy spot and a cozy blanket for moral support.



One of the blessings of big kids is that they help each other instead of always needing me. It makes my heart happy.


How I keep track of four kids all at once!






Yea!!! Wrap-ups!!! The excitement is palpable!


Have you started back to school yet? I hope your first day is/was as great as ours!!!

Aug 12, 2017

Squid Hat Studios

Nate orchestrated a movie making event this weekend. Kaytie wrote a script and this group of kids gathered together to film it (using a cell phone). I do not know how it went yet, because I was busy socializing with my own friends. But the kids are pleased. They call themselves Squid Hat Studios and I will try to share the YouTube link when they get it edited and posted. 


Aug 5, 2017

Girls and Art

Abbie went to art camp this summer for a week and this is what she produced.


Kaytie did not go to art camp, but this is her most recent drawing. I stole it off her Facebook page.


I always wished I was creative and artistic and could draw. So I am pretty proud of the lovely work my girls can do!

Aug 2, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: In the Reign of Terror

One of our favorite companies to review for is Heirloom Audio Productions. We are not generally that into learning by listening, since we are all either visual or kinesthetic learners. But we absolutely make an exception for any audio story put out by Heirloom Audio Productions! We were quite excited to hear that we were on list for their brand new offering... In the Reign of Terror!

In the Reign of Terror

Heirloom Audio does not just create audio books. This is not a book read aloud by a great narrator. This is actually a performance, an audio drama, with sound effects, a sound track, and voices done by real actors. (Brian Blessed from Star Wars, John Rhys-Davies from Lord of the Rings, and Cathy Sara from my own personal favorite, Downton Abbey, just to name a few.)

We have listened to every single one and have loved every single one! My teenagers willingly got out of bed early to come and listen to In the Reign of Terror. We all cuddled up in my bed and spent the morning in France, having adventures!

One of the things we love about these stories is their uplifting and inspirational quality. Woven throughout the exciting, adventurous story, we always encounter courage, faith, love, and weaknesses overcome. In the Reign of Terror is no exception.


This is the story of a dark time in history, the French Revolution. In fact, this was probably the darkest story we have listened to. I don't usually feel the need to give a heads up about these stories, but for this one, if you have young or sensitive children, definitely pre-listen because there are heavy topics addressed, such as treachery, cruelty and death.

However, in true Heirloom Audio style, the story is full of bravery and loyalty and faith in God. The tale follows young Harry Sandwith as he travels to France to work for Marquis de St. Caux. He is employed to be a companion for the Marquis' son, Ernest. He soon becomes a friend of Ernest, his three sisters, and his young brother. Their friendship is quickly put to the test, however, when a mob attacks the Marquis' home in an attempt to bring the nobility to justice for their crimes against the common people.

As an Englishman, Harry has the chance to walk away from the tragedy, however, he chooses to stay with the family and help any way he can. He puts himself in danger many times in attempts to keep his promise to the Marquis to protect the three girls as well as the rest of the family.

Through the course of the story, many comparisons are drawn between the American fight for Independence and the French Revolution. The difference being, of course, that the Americans kept a belief in God while the French fought for humanistic beliefs. The results being on one hand a democracy that seeks to further human freedoms and on the other hand a bloodbath that is a testament to greed, hate and betrayal.

Again, the story is full of tragedy, but Harry and the girls do manage to escape to England after many narrow escapes and help from an unexpected source.


Along with the CD, we were given access to the Live the Adventure Club, which includes a bunch of extras to go along with the story. I was able to download: a Cast Poster; a poster with the quote "What man intends for evil, God intends for good"; the original ebook by G. A. Henty; a script; and a study guide.

Let me tell you a little bit about the study guide. It is a 43 page ebook to help your students explore beyond the surface of the story. It contains brief bios of the real, famous people in the story, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre, pictures, and many extra tidbits of information about the time period.

The meat of the study guide, however, is the questions. There is a set of questions for each section of the story (four to eight minutes listening time). These questions are divided up into three different types.

  • Listening Well: comprehension questions that cover events in the story
  • Thinking Further: questions that ask your child to research, draw conclusions, or speculate about characters or events in the story
  • Defining Words: to build your child's vocabulary

After the questions are three short Bible studies exploring the Biblical themes found in the story.

There is also a suggested reading list and some essays on the historical issues in In the Reign of Terror.

The Live the Adventure Club also offers some coloring pages, crafts (such as build a Roman Aqueduct or make your own ship in a bottle) that go along with various stories, and word search games. 

I might have mentioned it before, but we love Heirloom Audio Productions and highly recommend to them to all!

In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Aug 1, 2017

Homeschool Crew Review: English on a Roll

I have to admit that I am a manipulative junkie. If there is a hands-on way to teach a concept and my kids will feel like they are learning by playing a game, then I am all-in. So I was absolutely interested to try English on a Roll from English Grammar Teaching Method.

English on a Roll

English on a Roll comes with a Teacher Manual and a box of forty color-coded cubes (two of which are blank) and a sheet of blank white stickers. The stickers and the blanks are to enable you to create custom cubes as you work through the lessons.

The Teacher Manual contains a cube guide that tells you the words on each cube as well as the color of the words, the function and the part of speech. There are four pages explaining the program, who it is intended for, how it works, and how to use it. There are thirty-seven lessons in Book One.

Each lesson is scripted and contains four parts:

  • prep
  • teach the concept
  • conversation/ games
  • written exercises


You are allowed to make copies of the worksheets as needed for your own class/family.

The prep was easy as it generally involved pulling out the correct cubes and making a quick copy of a worksheet if needed. Sometimes you need to customize a cube. Mostly the program is open and go.

English on a Roll was designed for teaching English as a second language and I can see how it would be absolutely perfect for that! But I can also see how it would be equally effective teaching language arts to English-speaking kids. We used it solely for grammar and learned so much!

I used English on a Roll with my younger two kids, ages ten and eleven. They have had one and two years of grammar instruction, respectively. But since all grammar programs are different, we started with the first lesson anyway. We worked quickly because a lot of the material was review for them, and what was new they were able to grasp easily.


We quickly discovered that we did need to add a white board to our materials for the course. But that was okay because we have plenty of them in our house!


We generally spent about five minutes on each lesson. I would read the script for teaching the concept. I did find myself adding to or adapting the script however, since it was written for non English speakers and I was using it to bolster grammar concepts. 

I loved that the concepts were presented differently than what they were used to, so even though it felt like review, they were actually learning a lot of new information. For example, although they quickly grasped the idea of possessive pronouns, because they knew how to use them, they had never actually heard the term before. Now they can use them correctly and talk about them intelligently! 


After I read through the lesson, we would play the games. There were generally two games per lesson. The games only took us a few minutes unless the kids particularly enjoyed them and wanted to play for awhile. Demonstrating prepositions was a fun one for them and we played it many, many times. They thought it was pretty funny to put their finger "in" their nose!

The games, although fun, are not competitive based and can be played alone if you are teaching only one child.

Since my kids are allergic to writing, we did the written exercises orally for the most part. Or I would show them the sheet and they would write the answers on the white board. This gives them incentive to write because they race each other to write down the correct answer first. 

After the lesson (or lessons, because sometimes we would do several in one sitting), I would let them play with the cubes and make up their own sentences. Sometimes they would build one that didn't make any sense and we would discuss why that didn't work and how to fix it. 


I recommend English on a Roll if you are looking for a fun, engaging way to teach Language Arts. Especially if your child loves manipulatives as much as I do! It can be used with young children because it is all hands-on. It also works well with adults and students with special needs.

If you want to know more about this program, check out the video demo.  

English on a Roll {Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Jul 30, 2017


Meet our new baby! Cricket is a playful little girl who is happily exploring her new home! She's half lab, half Aussie and we love her!

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